Sunday, August 21, 2022

BOOK REVIEW! SWELL MAPS 1972-1980 BYJOWE HEAD (Sound on Paper, 2021)

When I heard there was a book about noted English avant punk noisecapaders Swell Maps written by one of the group's own members you can bet that I really was on the get-go to obtain a copy of it for myself. After all, any pre-eighties rocknrollers who've been compared to a wide array of upper echelon acts from the Red Crayola to the Shadows of Knight with all Velvet points in-between is guaranteed to get this particular fanabla's remaining brain cell poppin' on all cylinders.

And can I help from sayin' that SWELL MAPS is the kinda book that really does have a whole lotta satin' goin' on, even if Map-ster Head's writing style is, howshallisay, rather Sahara-esque. But so what since the saga he unveils is one that I'm sure a good portion of you older readers can relate to, and I guess could reallyreallyREALLY  relate to if you were one of those seventies rich kids I usedta hear about who had enough money to not only buy all the records that your personal sense of style could handle but had enough left over for a subscription (speedy air mail even!) to the NME and thus knew alla the pertinent facts back then which took me fortysome years to eventually discover!

It's got a turdload of information including (besides Head's arid style) old articles taken from various weaklies both at home and abroad, a discography which even includes all of those side projects that were difficult to locate, and best of all an EP with more of what I hope will be a deluge of vault finds to hit our spinners in the years to come. The music is surprisingly solid ranging from various sixties garage band refs with a tad of Syd here and there to those weirdo sound cutters that these guys have been cranking out since the early-seventies. If yu still have those old Systematic and Rough Trade catalogs stuffed withing the cracks of your fart-encrusted boudoir you're bound to gobble this one faster than Linda Lovelace on a horny German Shepherd!

Saturday, August 06, 2022


OK, you probably don't know who Dan Feiner is, but I'm sure you all remember Jesse Farlow, the creator/edito/publisher of the classy early-seventies fanzine we all know and love as BEDLOE'S ISLAND. Part of the first wave of rock fanzines (y'know, before the rest of us morons caught on), Dan and Jesse are one and the same (for reasons you will read about below), BEDLOE'S ISLAND was one pretty solid read devoted to the more British slant on the music scene of the day with what I would call rather top notch writing and a rah-rah section (Greg Shaw, Mike Saunders...) that just about any true fanguy up to his shoulders in the rock ephemera of the day I'm sure strongly appreciated. An excellent endeavor that unfortunately has been forgotten by way too many so-called rockscribe "saviors"  who are more content to heap praise upon some of the most disturbing drive to ahve passed as rock 'n roll "criticism" these past fortysome years.

I got together with Mr. Feiner at his spatial apartment where, after a few shots and tokes, we got down to as many brass tacks as  Ben Fong-Torres did with Lester Bangs in the infamous BRAIN DAMAGE interview. Well, no, not really...

BLACK TO COMM-OK, now which is your real name, Dan or Jesse?

DAN FEINER-My real name is Dan Feiner. When I was a sophomore or junior in high school I realized my need to obtain and hear music vastly exceeded my ability to purchase it. Attempts at fraud (intentionally warping and then returning and exchanging records I was tired of) and petty crime (assisting a friend shop lift albums) were not successful. Third scam was the charm. I volunteered to write reviews for the local newspaper. A few record companies sent me promo copies to evaluate. When I started BEDLOE’s I figured I could get records at the fanzine as well as the newspaper by publishing it under a different name and address. So I created Jesse Farlow and used my dad’s P.O. Box as an address. I got a few double shipments but in short order stopped writing the free column and focused on the fanzine. Rather than straighten out the name situation, I just stayed Jesse for my music writing.

BTC-OK, I'll address you as Dan from hereon in. Anyway, when did the first issue of BEDLOE'S ISLAND come out?

DF-I would have guessed 1970 but reviewing some of the content, there are references to events that occurred and albums that were released in 1971 so that must be the year. I know I was still in school when it came out so officially, sometime prior to June 1971.

BTC-I'm really surprised at the overall quality of the first issue. Certainly not a "crudzine" as one fan remarked. The influence of THE NEW HAVEN ROCK PRESS seems to linger in these pages. Was this fanzine an influence? You also mention Greg Shaw in your pages so I gather BOMP! was as well.

DF-Hi Chris: Thanks for the kind words. The crudzine comment really hurt at the time. But rather than dissuade me from continuing I think it just encouraged me to do better. And, I believe, that progress can be seen in each subsequent issue of BI. The odd thing about the comment was that Greg Shaw was more than an influence on me. He was, I believe, what ultimately motivated me to start the zine. I can’t recall where I first encountered him. I know it was in an article about fanzines but I can’t recall the publication. I’d guess Rolling Stone. I most likely wrote to him, received encouragement and guidance, and got to work. I also name checked King Harvest Review in that first issue so I suspect I must also have corresponded with Robert Wilson.

Jon Tiven was an influence but I’m not sure if I had encountered him yet when I began publishing. I didn’t mention him so I’d guess not. I did subsequently meet him and get a bunch of NHRP issues. I went to college my first year in Vermont. I didn’t have a car so my parents drove me up there when I went and also when I returned after winter break. On one of those trips I arranged to meet Jon in New Haven on the way up or back. I recall going to his house and meeting either Gary Lucas (subsequently Capt Beefheart I believe) or Mitch Kapor (subsequently Lotus Notes) there. Jon was about my age and we got along. He not only helped me with the zine but provided me with what is still one of the more memorable events of my life, the invite to and attendance at the First Annual Rock Writers of the World conference in Memphis.

BTC-What were you listening to at the time? I sense an obvious prog/import bin bent to your collection.

DF-First and foremost British blues. Mayall, Fleetwood Mac (three guitar version), Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown etc. I loved them all. I’ve gotta laugh now at the self-assuredness with which I dismissed the Chicago blues anthology. I also really liked the English folk rock bands, especially Fairport, which later graced a cover. I got to bring them to Goddard when I went there. Goddard being Goddard I wrote it up as an education experience and got college credit for it. Which was summarily taken away when I transferred to Syracuse my junior year. Oh well. 

I pretty much liked anything foreign. I think Virgin records started around that time and I really liked their bands to. Other big faves were the Kinks and pre-Tommy Who.

I can not answer how Carole King made the cover and received a favorable record review. Perhaps one of my contributors wrote that.

BTC-What was the press run, and how did you distribute them?

DF-Now that tests my memory. I think I printed about one hundred. Somehow I got it out there that I had published it as I think I had about 10 subscribers, one of which I still recall was in Klamath Falls, OR not the kind of place one would expect a fanzine devotee to reside. Mostly I think I gave them to school friends and, of course, record company promo folk.

BTC-You brought to my attention New York scene mover and shaker Ruth Polsky's involvement with the early issues. Care to tell us more about her and her involvement with BEDLOE'S ISLAND?

DF-Ruth Polsky was a high school classmate of mine and one of my best friends during those years. I recall we talked on the phone endlessly, baring our teenage souls. I regret I was too young, unformed and unsure of myself to fully appreciate her strength, independence and creativity at that time. I don’t recall specifically what her role in Bedloe’s Island was. It doesn’t appear she wrote anything but I’m sure she must have encouraged me and perhaps helped with editing and assembly of the issues. I don’t recall having much contact during our college years but we must have stayed in touch as an old friend of mine recently reminded me we went to a Springsteen concert with her in the summer of 1974 or 1975. After Ruth graduated from college she got a job in NYC at some magazine publisher. The next thing I knew she was booking bands at Hurrah and Danceteria, spending time with name acts in the UK and arranging U.S. tours for them. I recall visiting her once during this period in NYC and feeling like her country bumpkin cousin. I’ve thought about her a lot in the years since her death. I wish we could get together for a Zoom call and catch up.

BTC-How many issues of BEDLOE'S ISLAND came out anyway?

DF-That proves a tougher question than I would have anticipated. I have copies of four issues. I’m pretty sure the Fairport issue (identified as #4) was the last one I did. I don’t have a copy of the issue with Alice Cooper on the cover that you show on your site. I remember working with that photo but interestingly I don’t see an issue number located on it. Do you have it? If so, does it replicate one of the other issues before Fairport. I might have changed covers. What is curious is that the price is more than any of the other issues .35 as opposed to .25 for Fairport. Maybe it was issue 5? So the direct answer to your question is four, possibly five, issues. Now that you have issue 1 you may be able to answer this question better than me.

BTC-Can you tell us more about your non-BEDLOE'S ISLAND writing?

DF-Before I started BEDLOE'S ISLAND I wrote weekly columns for two newspapers in my hometown of Toms River, N.J., the Daily Observer and the New Jersey Courier. I believe at that time they were both weeklies. My byline was Dan Feiner. BEDLOE’s occupied my writing in 1971 and 1972. I managed to land a review of the Help Yourself album Beware the Shadow in the May 1973 issue of Phonograph Record Magazine as Jesse Farlowe. In the fall of 1973 I transferred to Syracuse University and wrote regularly about music for an alternative weekly, The Syracuse New Times. After graduating with a degree in newspaper journalism I got a couple of reporter jobs in New Jersey, first at the Atlantic City Press and then at the Daily Observer. I covered municipal government and didn’t write about music at either of those publications. I published as Dan Feiner. In 1977 I moved to Seattle and wrote for the Seattle Times, an alternative weekly. I might have written about music but focused on municipal government there. 

As an aside, when I was looking for clippings of my newspaper articles, I found a copy of the Bedloe’s Island issue with Alice Cooper on the cover. I’d completely forgotten that there was indeed a Bedloe’s #5. It appears to have been published in the Summer of 1972. That is the issue with the advertisement for Fish and Chips Imports. By that time, I had made contact with the folks at JEM Records in S. Plainfield N.J. Mostly I bought records for myself but I did sell a few by mail order and at Stockton State College. I met Pete Frame of ZIGZAG and the Rock Writers of the World conference in Memphis and finally made it to the U.K. in the summer of 1973. I was supposed to assist JEM open an office in London but mostly I just slept on the floor of their office space. Peter Tomlinson joined me in London a week or two into my visit and we made our presence felt at concerts and record companies, stores and labels for a couple of what was then for me, wild weeks.

The critics conference and the month in London provided me with the best source material I would ever have had for BEDLOE’s but I guess my flame had burned out and I never published anything about them or an Issue 6 of the fanzine.

BTC-Can you tell us more about the rock writer's convention/ Meet any famous scribes of the day there???

DF-The critics convention remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I recall getting the mailed invitation and not immediately understanding that it included air travel, lodging and all events associated with the gathering. I am virtually certain I owe my invitation to Jon Tiven who was close to Ardent Records as I recall (so much for critical objectivity) and a great champion of Big Star who were the showcase live act of the event. To my memory everyone who was anyone in the world of rock writers was there. Because they figured in subsequent events I know I met and/or hung out with Peter Tomlinson, Crescenzo Capece, Pete Frame from ZigZag, R. Meltzer, Ed Ward. I’m sure there were countless others, Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh, Mike Saunders but 49 years later it is all a bit of a blur. 

Two events, sort of connected, are indelible, however. Crescenzo was not an invited participant but was crashing with Peter T as I recall. There was an open bar in the club where Big Star was playing. I wasn’t much of a drinker (I had favored other intoxicants in high school and early college) and knew nothing about mixed drinks. I was determined to take advantage of the free liquor, however, so I headed over to one of the bars and asked the bartender what the most expensive drink they had was. He told me it was a Zombie and I said I’ll have one. Big mistake. I took one sip and decided it was undrinkable. At that moment Crescenzo walked by and I offered the drink to him. He took it. Big mistake. I went back to the bar and ordered the only other premium beverage I knew about, a glass of Heineken. I think I had a second one after the set by Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers. While waiting for Big Star to take the stage I walked out on a balcony that was a floor or two above the street. Someone walking by said “hey man, give me a beer” and I complied, sloshing some of mine over the railing onto him. I have no idea why I did that. Really big mistake. There must have been a bouncer on the balcony behind me because almost instantly I was grabbed and escorted out of the club and onto the empty bus that had taken us from our hotel to the concert. I wasn’t allowed back in and missed the rest of the event, including Big Star and what I recall hearing was some sort of Meltzer incited mayhem on stage. 

Knowing the hard living, heavy drinking reputation of many of my fellow attendees, I still shake my head in disbelief that inexperienced, innocent and intimidated Jesse Farlowe was apparently the only celebrant to be 86’d from the event. I think we were staying at a Holiday Inn. I recall riding up to our rooms in an elevator with Crescenzo who was sitting on the floor looking well worse for wear. When we arrived at our floor of the hotel, two other attendees  grabbed him under the armpits and dragged him out into the hallway. The next morning I went to Peter’s room before breakfast. Crescenzo was there. He said he had puked all night and that the bedsheet was so full of vomit they had just tossed it out the window and down to the roof of the restaurant below. “Every time I puked,” Chris said, “all I could taste was your goddamned Zombie. I never saw Crescenzo again. 

Peter Tomlinson and I connected in London later in 1973 and hung out with Pete Frame. Peter T and I connected in NYC a couple of time in the past decade and keep up on Facebook.I finally got to see Big Star play in 1974 at a small club in Syracuse, NY. I interviewed Alex Chilton for the planned, but never produced, Issue 6 of Bedloe’s Island. When Peter and I reconnected he told me he had been interviewed for the Big Star documentary Nothing Can Hurt Me. I managed to obtain a screen grab of part of the invitation list for the Memphis conference. The page I captured included Jesse Farlowe as one of the invitees.

BTC-So, what has been going on with you since the days of BEDLOE'S ISLAND?

DF-So basically what have I been up to for the past half century? 😀

I graduated from Syracuse University in 1975 with a degree in newspaper journalism. I worked as a reporter in New Jersey for two years and then moved to Seattle, WA. I worked at an alternative weekly there for a bit and then took a much-better-paying PR job at a trade association. Bored shitless, I quit and enrolled in law school in Portland, OR. I graduated in 1981 and soon took a job as a prosecutor in a nearby district attorney’s office. In 1985 I left and started a solo practice as a criminal defense attorney. I retired at the end of 2017. Along the way I worked on some fascinating cases including the Portland 7 terrorism case, the ALF/ELF conspiracy case that included the bombing of the Vail ski resort and the international marijuana importing case that was the subject of the book Reefer Men. Most memorably (and most appropriately) I defended Portland rock club owner (and former Fillmore East employee) Larry Hurwitz on a murder charge. Anyone interested in that story, which warrants a book for sure, can do an internet search on Larry Hurwitz Starry Night.

I think one of the circumstances that led to the discontinuation of BEDLOE'S ISLAND was a change in my relationship with music and the music scene as I experienced it. As I aged and started thinking about a career and my need to support myself music became less a source of my identity and more an interest. That said, it remained my primary interest into my 50’s. I think I felt the change starting when I was still envisioning an issue 6 of Bedloe’s. My difficulty articulating it at that point (I’ve only recently been able to more fully understand what was happening for me) probably was a major factor in letting the zine pass.

That said, my desire to see shows and amass albums did not diminish much after the press passes and promotional pressings became fond memories. At one point I took a hiatus from rock and started listening to reggae and 50’s and 60’s era jazz almost exclusively. In the early 80’s I became somewhat obsessed with Scottish (Postcard Records) and New Zealand (Flying Nun) bands. Somewhat belatedly I discovered Americana and attended SxSW from 2001 to 2004. That first year I reconnected with Chip Lamey who I had palled around with back at Stockton State College in New Jersey. He was a SxSW vet and a great guide for me. In 1996 I went to see Steve Wynn at a small Portland club. I was standing near the entry way when someone walked in and said he was on the guest list. The person working the door asked his name and I heard him answer, Richard Meltzer. I confirmed he was R. Meltzer and introduced myself as Jesse Farlowe. I’d be surprised if he remembered me or that he contributed an article to BEDLOE’s. I think he was living in Vancouver, WA (a Portland suburb) at the time. I thought it might be interesting to track him down and document it but as is not unusual for me, I got sidetracked and nothing ever came of it. I’d love to reconnect with him and talk old days.

As I mentioned in an earlier response, I’m still in touch with Peter Tomlinson, primarily through Facebook. We’ve connected twice in NYC in the past decade. The frequency of my visits to New Jersey have diminshed since both of my parents have passed and my sister moved out of the area. But I hope to get back at some point soon and hang out with Pete again.

Thanks for maintaining the fanzine flame and your interest in BEDLOE'S ISLAND. Those days and my experiences in them are now so far in the past that they feel somewhat like a dream. But a very vivid and memorable one.